These are my thoughts on on fruitarianism as a current social phenomenon with a few insider observations from the last years.
Fruitarian movement does not exist. Or it is unrecognizable at this point, in 2021. There are multiple remarkable or somewhat popular individuals and authors doing their own fruitarian thing. Most of them differ in their understanding of fruitarianism, sometimes radically.
This was the case when I found the term
fruitarianism to describe my own (then dozen-year old) practice back in 2004. The most notable progress since then was made in terms of clarifying and popularizing this term, and I was a part of that common effort.
The internet was evolving, and more and more people practicing vegetarianism, veganism, and sometimes fruitarianism were sharing their experiences. For a while, there were about a dozen sites consolidating this information. Veganism was newer, and vegans tended to be younger, less experienced, and more concernen with ethics and environment. That attracted me personally the most. To give you an insider-look, let me describe my general feeling of that time, which I believed to share with many if not most outspoken seekers of better ways to structure our food chains.
As many others in this sphere, I lived with a sense of urgency, because
- the incomprehensible (to me) number of animals held in horrid condition in any given moment,
- the ongoing environmental distraction on a large scale;
- the most relevant statistical data and emerging facts were comprising into a bigger picture of humanity as an annihilating force to many life forms - at least in my optimistic mind.
Vegan communities were a great support for people like me, but they were starting to disappear after several years of commercialization of the internet. Community-hosting businesses started demanding high fees from the established members, the organizers could not afford to keep their groups alive, and all individual connections and published materials were routinely trashed, often without warning.
There was one year, I forgot which one, during which half of the links in my community bookmark folder became useless. Later, around 2015, something similar happened to my links to local vegan restaurants in Southern California that served fresh dishes.
Raw vegans with their 100% purity standard dominated vegan online spaces for a few years. Many others were abandoned or closed up for private coaching. One of the largest raw-vegan network was deleted entirely after its admin switched to high-meat "paleo" diet.
Regular vegetarians were hard to find. When they appeared in vegan groups, I doubt they could escape frequent suggestive visual bombarding with tortured milk caws and chickens. Overuse of violent imagery draw people away as well, in my opinion. I participated less for this reason: seeing it was impossible to endure. I could not find any active dedicated vegetarian groups. But anywhere one went, from emerging Facebook to private mailing lists, one was likely to find a self-proclaimed
voice for the voiceless who spammed everyone with graphic suffering. They preached to the choir, traumatizing us for no obvious reason. Their persistence, unwillingness to listen, and remarkable productivity made me doubt their motivation.
Living foods community quietly and separately coexisted. Paleo people and some energetic vegans went to verbal wars with each other. Ex-vegans became a defensive majority, attributing all possible personal horrors to beef deprivation.
By the end of 2011, I started to realize that actual public interest to ethically motivated diets was and will stay meager, and that my personal contribution would have a minuscule impact, and certainly would not prevent destruction and suffering in any significant way soon enough. It was painful, and not for me alone. It was also demotivating, especially after the first years of witnessing growing awareness. Especially the reduction in various misconceptions was dear to my heart.
Leading to that, there was a significant jump in popularity of fruitarian approaches and the following adoption of the diet (vegan with high fruit intake) by newbies for all kinds of reasons. Our inclusive network reached first places in major search engines around 2010, without any advertisement.
In real world, more vegan products became available in regular stores. Fruit quality and availability appeared to stay the same. I attended VegFests and socialized with animal rights activist. Regular vegan gatherings and parties we usually not that exciting. I used to bring lots of fruit, because usually food was just awful to me: soda, alcohol, sugar cookies and cakes, an so on. With time, parties became more luxurious, as more foodies and chefs started entering the scene.
It was surprising for a while, how many people became interested in eating only culinary fruit for mental and physical purity, usually following recommendations in old religious books, notably in Torah, Bible, and some interpretations of Hinduist and Buddhist texts. I started including botanical, psychological, and some linguistic and historical information in my publications on forums, so that these folks would not exclude some foods unnecessarily.
Looking back, the ANA people must have been the most concerning adopters of fruitarian diet. I started noticing many very lean beautiful girls in my following, and was confused by the fact that many of them had plastic surgeries, which was highly unusual. Only later I figure out how lethal anorexia was, and that it had little to do with health, ethics, or even beauty. Till this day, I sometimes try to convince a good affected person to get help, knowing that the therapy is very expensive and the success is hard to achieve.
Gathering links to relevant studies, I advocated for more fresh fruits and vegetables for vegans, many of which were relying on highly processed foods at that time. Their flavor of purity was serving animals and not themselves. Eating healthier was a distraction from the cause. I used to repeat, humans are animals too. I hope someone ate an apple after hearing that.
I am sure though, that my participation in such discussions had only small effect, especially when it touched upon evolutionary theory rejected by US Christians or on human health, disregarded by some misanthropic vegans living on junk food.
One particular purity-seeking trend I disliked was the notion that non-vegans were unsuitable life partners, and even the existing spouses should be discarded: out of disgust, to avoid caring for their poor health, etc. This was openly discussed in brutal terms, and I found it to be much worse than objectifying fruitarians for their "pure" bodily fluids. I have experienced both things with real people.
Meanwhile, fruitarian ideas got appropriated by cult-like weight-loss groups, was used for profit and to spread unrelated ideologies. And then they were discarded, tarnished.
Random individuals were attracting attention with radical stances - like, in essence: nuts are bad, eating seeds is like eating babies, cooked food is toxic, cure cancer with juices, anything sweet would eventually kill you, etc. - and then often vanished, selling their platforms to businesses after generating enough search engine links. So many new dieters started blogging about their exclusive meals only to disappear soon after.
All kinds of conspiracy theorists attached fruitarian-like elements to their promotions, and after a while, one could find a good advise on orcharding or handling of fruit mostly in anti-social, anti-progress, anti-scientific, religious, magical healing, or food-denying contexts. Recognition of danger of some of these teaching and actual trouble of individual who fell for them, forced some of us to spent many hours trying to prevent more damage. I alone spent months of my life fighting breatharianism. Established institutions would not even make clarifying statements or provide citizens with proper information on these tendencies, and many media outlets would uncritically popularize book-selling breatharians even further.
Corrupted "journalists" published sponsored diet-related articles based on biased studies, often even contradicting even current recommendations by health organizations. Their companies payed for gaining leading positions in search results, and individuals and smaller organizations could not keep up.
No one regulated spreading lies. The quality of ones information became almost irrelevant.
In online communities, moderate vegans and frugans were dragged down by trolls for sins like eating a spoon of honey, or a piece of bread without checking the ingredients, or for vaccination, making internal group atmosphere intolerable. All or nothing dietary prescriptions - meaning, you are going to be kicked out and publicly shamed if you even question any of the peculiar rules - made participation more troublesome.
Aggressive, misinformed, or pretending vegans and fruitarians were spreading disinformation, embarrassing other members of the movement. Reasonable ethical veganism was replaced by polarizing rigid dogmatism, complemented by growing more inclusive but primarily health-oriented plant-based diets. The latter became possible after major health institutions declared vegan diet acceptable for all ages based on scientific findings.
Good ways to discredit any idea are to radicalize it, or to promote it by unpleasant or untrustworthy people.
Bigger Picture Again
Vegans reached 3-11 percent of population in some countries. In pop culture though, comics and shows came up with more vegan jokes, often bad ones, and regular people were repeating them in delight. In most restaurants, it was still hard to get enjoyable vegan food without risking regretful mistakes and discomfort for others.
Animals are now going extinct at the fastest rate in human history. Wildlife continued to be destroyed by large businesses, and consumption of products by intensive animal agriculture grew worldwide.
Human beings remained largely distracted by competition and entertainment.
Real Life Communities
More fruitarian villages and settlement started appearing in various places, but till this day they seem to have problems with escapism, drug abuse, land ownership feuds, mentally challenged individuals, and dogmatic leadership. Exhausted and old people without any savings were seeking refuge there, but were unable to keep up with the labor required to maintain food forests. To build houses, more trees were sacrificed.
Many of these communities were established in remote locations in foreign to the participants countries and the individuals in them could not rely on outside world to help them in time of need.
Since about 2008, I was trying to argue that leaving society and hiding from its influence is virtually impossible, that we need to work on a gradual change inside of our societies, that it is batter to keep the wilderness intact instead of removing more pristine forests. My arguments were not convincing in any way, I felt. I sensed desperation of the people unwilling to fit in and ready to live everything behind. I shared my methods to adjust to western cultural settings, but I needed to admit that it was difficult.
As a person with some experience in changing cultures, I want to warn anyone who considers joining a remote living commune about the dangers of physical adaptation to a new environment, insufficient safety, legal issues, failed investments, detrimental psychological influences, and the possible resulting entrapment.
Fruitarianism is interesting for me and some other fruitarians I know not only as a personal choice but also as a tool to unite and move together towards a better societal structure.
In 2013, I thought that maybe the major change would come from economical pressures. In the following years though, it became clear to me that squeezing monetary value out of animals and soil, and even people, was only intensifying with new technologies and the concentration of capital.
Then, the climate movement gave me some reasons to hope, even though other types of pollution, especially of fresh waters, were rarely mentioned. I thought, locally, Californian drought might force more regulation on intensive animal farming facilities, but the huge amount of their water usage and pollution is almost never addressed here, like almost everywhere else.
Maybe health concerns would drive the the change. Food poisonings did not. Knowing causes of diet-related diseases might have had. The number of people choosing more plant foods is growing in some places. What about infectious diseases? The covid pandemic came and not yet gone, articles and books were written by the leading scientists about dangers of wet markets and crowding animals with reduced immune defense - and almost nothing had been done politically to address any of it.
As an individual, I do not know what else to do.
When I organized local fruitlucks, the sense of community helped, but sometimes afterwords I was staring into nothingness for long minutes, trying to find reasons to arrange the next one. Many attendees were not interested in anything but own health, and even that was only because a specific disease forced them to change. Some believed in a quick complete cure by a diet, which likely would lead them to disillusionment.
Often, very awkward or excessively self-promoting people join local gatherings, and over time, one grows tired of dealing with human fragility. Nevertheless, for me, meeting great people in the movement was worth it. Sharing fruit with anyone was worth it. Achieving some kind of unity was worth it.
I apologize for concentrating on problems in this overview. Significant accomplishments in this area were made by so many amazing persons. People now know almost everywhere what vegan means, and even fruitarian. It was unimaginable to me twenty years ago. We are scattered around the world, and not yet involved people around us are accepting and even opening up to more ethical and sustainable ways to live. Science is also a way to develop technologies beneficial to us all, providing there will be incentives to implement them. There is a multitude of traditional ways to improve our situation as well.
Whichever ethical path you have crafted for yourself, please, continue. And get in touch with like-minded people, even if they do something different for similar purpose.